United States District Court, W.D. New York
HUGH B. SCOTT UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
the Court are the parties' respective motions for
judgment on the pleadings (Docket Nos. 10 (plaintiff), 12
(defendant Commissioner)). Having considered the
Administrative Record, filed as Docket No. 7 (references
noted as “[R.__ ]”), and the papers of both
sides, this Court reaches the following decision.
an action brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) to
review the final determination of the Commissioner of Social
Security that plaintiff is not disabled and, therefore, is
not entitled to disability insurance benefits. The parties
consented to proceed before a Magistrate Judge (Docket No.
14, reassignment Order of Oct. 4, 2019).
plaintiff (“Darrell Glover, Sr.” or
“plaintiff”) filed an application for disability
insurance benefits on July 13, 2015 [R. 20]. That application
was denied initially. The plaintiff appeared before an
Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”), who considered
the case de novo and concluded, in a written
decision dated November 27, 2017, that the plaintiff was not
disabled within the meaning of the Social Security Act. The
ALJ's decision became the final decision of the
Commissioner on September 7, 2018, when the Appeals Council
denied plaintiff's request for review.
commenced this action on October 26, 2018 (Docket No. 1). The
parties moved for judgment on the pleadings (Docket Nos. 8,
12), and plaintiff duly replied (Docket No. 13). Upon further
consideration, this Court then determined that the motions
could be decided on the papers.
a 49-year-old (born July 23, 1965) with a high school
education, last worked as a shaping machine set up operator
and maintenance mechanic, later found by the vocational
expert as medium exertion work [R. 28, 29]. He contends that
he was disabled as of the onset date of February 25, 2015 [R.
20]. Defendant argues the relevant period is from December
18, 2015, when plaintiff applied for benefits, 20 C.F.R.
§ 416.335, through November 27, 2017, when plaintiff was
found disabled (Docket No. 12, Def. Memo. at 2 &
[R. 30]. Plaintiff injured his knees at work in February 2015
[R. 261] (id. at 3).
claims the following impairments deemed severe by the ALJ:
lumbar disc herniation with myelopathy; multilevel spinal
stenosis with radiculopathy; cervical disc disorder with
myelopathy; and bilateral knee osteoarthritis [R. 23].
AND VOCATIONAL EVIDENCE
plaintiff's knees following his work-related injuries, in
May 2016, Dr. Gregory Chiaramonte examined plaintiff and
found that plaintiff could work but with restrictions from
prolonged walking, standing, kneeling, squatting, and heavy
lifting of over 20 pounds [R. 426, 27] (Docket No. 12, Def.
Memo. at 3). The ALJ gave some weight to the doctor's
opinion [R. 27]. A month later, plaintiff had knee surgery on
his right knee [R. 418] and later used a cane [R. 307]
(id.). By August 2015, Dr. Robert Bauer examined
plaintiff and opined that plaintiff had “no formal
sitting, lifting, bending, or standing restrictions. He can
handle a gallon of milk” [R. 434, 27] (id. at
4). The ALJ gave little weight to this opinion, however,
because plaintiff's longitudinal medical record
illustrated otherwise [R. 27]. On November 2015, consultative
examiner Dr. Hongbiao Liu examined plaintiff and opined that
plaintiff had moderate limitation in prolonged walking,
bending, and kneeling [R. 438, 27] (id.). The ALJ
gave Dr. Liu's findings some weight because the record
supported additional exertional, postural, and manipulative
limitations not contained in Dr. Liu's opinion [R. 27].
In February 2016, plaintiff had surgery on his left knee [R.
plaintiff's back, in the spring of 2015, plaintiff had
imaging of his lumbar spine for complaints of pain, with
images indicating degenerative changes in the lower facets,
L5-S1 disc bulge, L4-L5 disc bulge, L3-L4 moderate central
and bilateral foraminal stenosis, and L2-L3 mild central
stenosis [R. 274, 297, 26] (id. at 4-5). In July
2015, plaintiff underwent surgery at ¶ 3-L5 [R. 321, 26]
(id. at 5). In June 2016, plaintiff had further
surgery on his back [R. 499, 26] but in November 2016
plaintiff still complained of lower back pain [R. 477, 480,
26]. Additional surgery was approved but plaintiff declined
further surgical intervention at that time [R. 484, 26]. In
June 2017, plaintiff had further imaging of his back,
revealing stable hardware placement and some soft tissue
swelling [R. 514, 26]. In July 2017, plaintiff agreed to have
further lumbar spinal surgery [R. 517, 26] (id. at
also complained of upper right, non-dominant extremity issues
related to his cervical spine, but the longitudinal evidence
showed that he had full grip strength with that arm and hand
[R. 362, 406, 437, 487, 520, 26-27], with occasions of
decreased grip strength [R. 455, 457, 512, 513, 26-27]
(id. at 6).
testified that both of his knees were deteriorating, with
neck and back pain, causing numbness down his right leg and
right arm [R. 53, 24]. The ALJ concluded that plaintiff's
statements were not consistent with the medical evidence and
other evidence [R. 25].
Two, the ALJ found other claimed impairments (such as
diverticulosis, pancreatitis, hypertension, anemia, obesity,
and hypomagnesemia) were not severe, stating that these
ailments were conservatively treated and appeared
well-controlled [R. 23]. The ALJ concluded that these
ailments did not cause more than slight abnormalities and did
“not have more than a minimal effect on the
claimant's ability to perform basic work activities for a
continuous period of 12 months during the period at issue,
” [R. 23]. At Step Three, the ALJ found that the severe
impairments did not meet or equal Listings 1.02, 1.04 [R.
found that plaintiff had a residual functional capacity to
perform light work with exceptions, that plaintiff can
occasionally balance, stoop, kneel, crouch, and crawl;
occasionally climb ramps or stairs; never climb ladders,
ropes, or scaffolds; must use cane to ambulate; must avoid
concentrated exposure to slippery and uneven surfaces; never
work in hazardous environments such as at unprotected heights
or around dangerous machinery and open flames; must be in a
position that would allow the person stand for approximately
five minutes after sitting for approximately thirty minutes
while remaining at the work station; and frequently handle
and occasionally finger with the right non-dominant hand [R.
then found that plaintiff was unable to perform past relevant
work as a shaping machine setup operator or mechanic [R. 28].
With a residual functional capacity to perform light work,
the ALJ found that plaintiff was not disabled when applying
the Medical-Vocational Rule 202.21 and 202.14 standards, but
plaintiff's ability to perform all or substantially all
the requirements for light work were impeded by additional
limitations [R. 29]. The ALJ found plaintiff's age on his
onset date was 49 years old and he later changed to closely
approaching advanced age, 20 C.F.R. § 1563(d) [R. 29].
With this capacity and the inability to perform
plaintiff's past work, the ALJ asked the vocational
expert whether there were jobs in the national economy for
someone in plaintiff's circumstances. The expert opined